Tuesday, November 24, 2009


On Thursday, known as Thankskilling to supporters of the struggles of the indigenous nations of North America, Native people and their allies will gather for the 40th annual National Day of Mourning in Plymouth, Mass. Wampanoag leader Wampsutta led the first such gathering in 1970. Here is the text of his speech from that day.

The topic of racist settlers and indigenous people's struggle for self-determination always brings to mind, for me at least, as an anti-Zionist Jew, the question of Palestine and the tragic history of the imposition of the Israeli garrison state on the historic homeland of the Palestinian nation. For some time now I've been watching and waiting for an English-language edition of Shlomo Sand's book whose Hebrew title translates directly as something like "When and How Was the Jewish People Invented." Now it's here, with the more melodious but also somewhat less in-your-face title The Invention of the Jewish People. As usual, sigh, I'm hearing about it too late-- Sand was on a U.S. book tour last month and I could have heard him speak at NYU. Ah well. I do want to get the book into my hands and see what all the fuss is about. I'm not holding my breath for some great revelatory work of anti-Zionist history. We all know that the books by Israeli scholars touted as such, and even more so the writers themselves, tend to fall far short of the hype, to say the least. (Benny Morris, anyone?) On the other hand, hey, maybe I'll be happily surprised; maybe Sand really is that rare entity, the fully anti-Zionist resident of the Zionist state. Compromise: I'm not going to spend my money on it. I just checked online and there is a copy available in the Queens library system; I put in a request that it be sent to my branch. We shall see.

Though it's off topic, I want to note that today is the 150th anniversary of the publication of On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin. As I've mentioned before, I read it a couple years ago and was happily surprised at how easy it is to understand. Which makes sense when you realize that Darwin's whole purpose in writing it was to provide a popular introduction to the idea of evolution. If you haven't yet, you should read it too. You won't be sorry. In the meantime, this looks pretty cool. The Darwin Manuscripts Project is an online archive of the actual pages of Darwin's original draft of Origin. As of this writing, lunchtime Tuesday, the material has not yet been posted, but it's supposed to be up some time today.